If you find yourself at a Farmer’s Guild meeting, you’re as likely to find a date as you are a tractor. With seven chapters across Northern California, the Guild has become the “it” destination for agrarians looking to mingle. Small farmers and farm-curious folks arrive at these once-a-month gatherings to swap planting tips and talk… Read More
Ellen Gustafson’s We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World, may have a clumsy title, but the book takes a trenchant and well-researched look at America’s high tech farming and the denatured food it produces. The food activist goes further, by laying out how processors take that food and fill it… Read More
Here’s what caught our attention this week in food news. 1. Study Finds Clear Differences Between Organic and Non-Organic Foods (The Guardian)
As I report in next month’s National Geographic feature, “The New Face of Hunger,” millions of American families are struggling with a new kind of hunger. Some of the increase can be traced to a change in definition; in the 1960s, America equated hunger with physical starvation. By the 2000s, though, researchers started asking whether people were skipping meals because they couldn’t afford to eat, coining the term “food insecurity” to replace hunger. And with wages stagnating and public support of commodity crops far exceeding that for produce, the number of food insecure Americans now far outstrips the number of those who were ever counted as “hungry.” But don’t take my word for it: The numbers speak for themselves.
How bad is the new American hunger?
Millions of people hungry in the U.S. in 1968 10
Millions of people food insecure in the U.S. in 2012 49
Editor’s note: A “Right to Farm” amendment is up for a vote in Missouri this August, and while the Missouri Farm Bureau says the bill will “permanently enshrine and protect the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices,” many worry that it could also make it impossible to criticize or regulate controversial farm practices, regardless of their impact. The Kansas City Star published an editorial calling the amendment a “concerted effort to shield factory farms and concentrated agricultural feeding operations from regulations to protect livestock, consumers and the environment.” A similar amendment passed in North Dakota last fall and there are two more coming up in Indiana and Iowa.
Have you ever bought groceries from a checker with the sniffles? If so, you’re probably not alone. In fact, many food retail employees can’t afford to miss work when they’re under the weather. Many don’t have medical coverage and few can cover lost wages when taking unexpected time off.
Janifer Suber, a clerk at Vons–a Los Angeles-based division of Safeway, Inc. with over 300 stores nationwide–says employees at her store often take matters into their own hands when a co-worker is sick. She recalls one instance when an employee had a stomach virus that had gotten so bad she missed several days of work, but only after co-workers had pooled their money to cover the co-pay for the doctor’s visit and the lost paycheck.
In recent years, a consensus has been taking shape among food justice advocates, as well as nutrition and public health experts. While access to fresh, healthy food is important to changing dietary trends, these groups tend to agree, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.
Years ago, The Zimbabwean biologist and environmentalist, Allan Savory of the Savory Institute, believed that large roaming animals, such as elephants, were destroying Africa’s great plains, leading to desertification.
In the years that ensued, some 40,000 elephants were killed in hopes of saving the plains. But, much to Savory’s dismay, the culling of these animals didn’t make a significant difference. After years of additional research, he determined it was poor management–not overgrazing–that led to desertification. In fact, Savory explained, he found that by allowing livestock to graze and roam across the plains, the natural cycle of what he describes as “birth, growth, death and decay,” actually has the potential to restore the world’s grasslands.
Michael Foley is a Mendocino County, California-based farmer dedicated to helping young farmers find access to land and education. He wears many hats, including: farmers’ market manager, Vice President of the association behind that farmers’ market (MCFARM), and President of the Little Lake Grange. A former professor of politics at the Catholic University of America, Foley is also one the founders of the Grange Farm School and a mentor farmer at Brookside Farm, an innovative teaching farm. As you might expect, his focus is on the needs of the small farmer.
Here’s what caught our eye in food news this week:
Last week, just before the holiday weekend, Foster Farms recalled over a million pounds of chicken. But some food safety advocates feel it’s too little too late after a 16-month-long salmonella outbreak that has sickened nearly 625 people. The company insists that that it has begun to enact new food safety procedures but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has raised questions about how effective they are.